Saturday, January 6, 2007

Seeing America from the East

Was browsing some Press Trust of India photos, and found these two images particularly interesting.

The first is from Kolkata, where a political party (Samajwadi) was protesting Saddam's hanging by carrying an effigy of Bush (or is that Mel Gibson?) at the American Center. The second, in case you're not keen on Bollywood, features Salman Khan saluting Old Glory alongside a few cricketers.

It's difficult to describe the American expatriate existence, but this duo sums up, at least for me, the sort of double life one must play (regardless of one's one opinion of her country and its politics). Americans are at the same time lauded for being the land of the free and lambasted for supporting a leader who is mediocre at best, a monster at worst, and in reality, probably somewhere smack in the middle.

I suppose it's much like America's current view of India; there was a brilliant little post a few weeks ago (though I can't remember it's link or author -- it was on both DesiPundit and BlogBharti) offering a (tongue-in-cheek) guide for how people in the U.S. can report on India. Salute the burgeoning middle class, but don't forget to mention the grinding poverty. Juxtapose the jolly, well-fed, polished young technocrats in an office with lots of gadgets with the group of children who wait panstless at the stoplight, playing drums and doing backflips.

Sometimes I wonder if there's any hope for people to have accurate perceptions of place without actually going somewhere. I suppose that's what literature and art and hell, even the Internet, aspire to achieve -- freedom from the bounds of geography -- but is it possible for humans to conceive of locales without trying to fit them into categorical archetypes?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I don't think people are that smart yet so as to not fit them into categorical archetypes.